By Tamara Juarez, October 2016 Issue.

The month of October, which is LGBTQ History Month, holds special meaning to the community it honors. From remembering our trailblazers and acknowledging our individual journeys from the closet to increasing visibility and setting our sights on the work that lies ahead, this month continues to serves as an important point for reflection and celebration.

Rainbows Festival 2015. Photo by Gregg Edelman.

Each year Rainbows Festival, presented by Phoenix Pride, provides LGBTQ and allied community members the opportunity to come together and do just that – reflect and celebrate.

The two-day event will take place from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. Oct. 15 and 16 at Heritage Square Park, located near the intersection of Seventh and Washington streets. Admission is free and pets are welcome.

In the same format as previous years, the 2016 Rainbows Festival will feature a variety of entertainers, vendors and activities for attendees of all ages.

Rainbows Festival provides people with the opportunity to engage with LGBTQ-friendly businesses, meet other members of the community and enjoy a fun-filled weekend at zero cost, said Justin Owen, Phoenix Pride’s executive director.

“We encourage everyone to come down and check it out, because we’ve made some great upgrades over the past couple of years,” he said. “Our main stage and community stage [have] grown substantially with local entertainers, our food and beverage options have increased and we have exciting new exhibitors who people may have never heard of before.”

Empower

“I think it’s really important to note that Rainbows is not just another event,” she said. “It’s our mission in action: to unite and engage individuals and organizations to empower, educate and support Arizona’s LGBT[Q] community.”

For anyone looking for community, Logan said it they’re sure to fine it at Rainbows Festival.

“Aside from being able to connect with different organizations and resources around the Valley, there is also that feeling of community and camaraderie,” she said. “It’s hard to feel alone at those events … you are guaranteed to find a patron, or volunteer, or entertainer or staff member who will happily welcome you to their community.”

Additionally, attendees will find numerous resources and networking opportunities with local businesses and groups who will participate in Rainbows Festival as vendors.

Educate

Phoenix Pride works alongside hundreds of volunteers and businesses each year to organize Rainbows Festival, the Phoenix Pride festival and parade, the Miss and Mister Phoenix Pride Pageant, the annual Pride Brunch and other LGBTQ events.

Throughout the past eight years, the organization has raised more than $325,000 to help fund grants, scholarships and local other LGBTQ organizations.

Community support is vital and helps continue a cycle of giving, Owen added.

“We fund back into the community by helping people further their education and awarding grants to nonprofits that may not have the opportunity to have fundraisers as often,” he said.

Entertain

Afeelya Bunz.

Performers include world-renowned DJ Audrey Napoleon, alternative-pop band Fairy Bones – named “Best Local Band” of 2015 by

Phoenix New Times – and acts by some of the Valley’s most popular drag queens and kings. (Read Echo's interview with Fairy Bones lead singer Chelsey Louise here.)

For the third year, Echo Readers’ Choice Award winner and 2008 Miss Phoenix Gay Pride Afeelya Bunz will host the main stage and will bring “Afeelya & Friends” to audiences in the Lath House Pavilion.

“I love to see people laugh at the crazy things I come up with and love to see the audience participate in the show,” she said. “The key is to have everyone laughing and enjoying themselves.”

Ultimately, Bunz said she’d like people to leave this year’s festival with a better understanding and appreciation for the fact that everyone in our diverse community can all come together and unite in celebration.

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